Abraham Lincoln achieved so much as a leader of the United States, but what remains eternal in the public’s imagination are his famous words from his Gettysburg Address.
That’s just one example of the power of speech, and how it can be used as an effective tool for presenting ideas and influencing others.
Politicians use speeches to share their visions and goals; students practice delivering school lessons with them; businessmen give them to build up pep among their employees and associates; thought leaders use speeches in avenues like TedTalks and TedX to share their knowledge and insights.
While there are many speech writing services available on the Internet, it only takes a bit of time for you to learn to write your own speech and develop this priceless life skill!
What Makes a Great Speech?
So what makes a great speech?
Here are some of the common elements of great speeches from history:
- Clarity: Obviously, your speech is worthless if it can’t be clearly comprehended by your audience. The words should be easily understandable in order to be effective.
- Relevance: The message should match the season and needs of the audience, and the speaker should be confident in the need for that particular message.
- Brief, but complete: The best speeches don’t have to be long-winded; in fact, it takes more skill to include the same amount of information in a shorter length.
- Unbiased and unemotional: Although speeches may stir up the listeners’ emotions, the speaker needs to remain unbiased and not driven by emotion in order for the speech to have long-lasting effects.
- Audience involvement: Some of the best speeches include audience participation so that they can express their agreement with the content of the speech.
How Do You Write a Good Speech?
Before you can deliver a powerful message that stays with your listeners for a long time, you must write a well-structured speech that is clear, definite, brief, and complete.
Here are the steps you can follow if you’ve booked a speaking engagement or need to deliver an important presentation:
1. Decide on your main points.
A good rule of thumb is to have 3–5 main points; anything beyond that will be difficult for your listeners to remember.
Try to give your audience at least one key line or idea that they will surely remember. Sometimes you can do this intentionally; other times, you may not know what specific line your audience will hang onto.
One way to do this is to state your main points in memorable ways. The following are ways that you can do this:
- Use alliteration. For example, “Engage, Explore, Enjoy;” “Create, Connect, Collaborate, Commission.”
- Use contrast to highlight an important idea. For example, one line that everyone remembers about John F. Kennedy is from a speech he gave in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
- Make a short, memorable “quotable quote” for important points. Then, put ample emphasis around it by indicating space for you to pause or repeat the line. For example, in a conference on pioneering at Penang House of Prayer, one of the lines that the speaker Aaron Walsh shared was: “Leadership is building the beautiful alternative.”
2. Outline your speech.
A good outline will help make sure you hit the most important points you want to make and don’t go off on rabbit trails. Here are a few examples of a speech outline:
Speech Outline Example 1: Basic Structure
Introduction: In the introduction, you can share a story relating to your topic, and then move on to give an overview of the main points you will be discussing.
Body: This is where you go into detail for each of your main ideas.
Conclusion: You wrap up your speech by summarizing the main points you have just finished elaborating. Then, you can close with a call-to-action or an answer to “What’s next?”
Speech Outline Example 2: Problem-Solution Structure
First Part: Describes the problem and why it is so bad
Second Part: Describes a possible solution or set of solutions
Third Part: Summarizes how the solutions will solve the problem
3. Write in the same tone as you speak.
One of the most important public speaking tips is to remember that you are writing something that you will be speaking out loud for people to hear.
Chances are, your speaking tone is less formal and more conversational than when you write an essay. Take this into consideration when you write your speech. Some tips include:
- Keep your sentences short. Imagine reading out loud an insanely long sentence of more than 30 words. You will either run out of breath, or lose your audience in the process.
- Be confident with contractions. Formal writing tends to shy away from contractions: “I’m” needs to become “I am.” But because this is an verbally-delivered piece, contractions make you sound more relatable, and it takes less time to deliver. This leaves you more room for great content.
- Remember that speaking isn’t tied to grammar as much as writing. When writing a speech, you don’t need to stick to strict grammar rules about writing in full sentences. People always say things like, “See?” “Gotcha,” and “Hope you like it.”
4. Give concrete examples.
Concrete examples, such as real stories and anecdotes, will resonate with your audience. Sharing personal stories not only makes your point more real to your audience, but it also makes you more relatable, and therefore trustworthy.
When you are thinking about which examples to include, consider using a mix of different types of stories: perhaps a funny anecdote or two, combined with a more thought-provoking personal tale can make a solid combination.
5. Prepare a strong opening.
The first few minutes of any speech are when the audience is most receptive. Make sure you grab their attention—and keep it!
How do you begin a speech?
Some of the most powerful ways to begin a speech are:
- Quotes:. The quote you choose will help set the tone for the rest of your speech.
- Jokes: A joke or an anecdote is a great way to break the ice when speaking in public, especially if you don’t personally know your audience.
- “What If” questions: Challenging your audience to think from the get-go is a great way to grab their attention.
- “Imagine…”: Similar to asking a “what if” question, getting your audience to imagine a vision of a good future, for example, will stir up their emotions and keep them interested in what you have to share.
- Statistics: Official statistics are a great way to present a problem, giving you a good foundation for a solution you might offer.
6. Practice out loud and cut unnecessary words.
After you write your speech, take time to practice reading it out loud.
You should do this for 2 main reasons:
- You’ll want to check how long it takes you to deliver your speech, so you can plan accordingly.
- You’ll want to practice using a natural, yet confident, speaking voice.
This is also the time to filter out unnecessary words. The best speechwriters believe that short and brief deliveries pack a better punch than long-winded speeches with many unnecessary rabbit trails.
You might also wish to recite your speech in front of a few friends or colleagues, or record yourself using a webcam of software like Zoom, so you can review your presentation and find areas for improvement.
Examples of Famous Speeches
Below are several examples of famous speeches from history.
John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech
In his inaugural speech, President John F. Kennedy delivers one of his most famous lines—”Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
Above is an excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in August of 1963.
How to Write a Speech
By following the 6 steps above, you’ll be well on your way to writing solid speeches that will stay with your listeners for years to come.
You can also study up on rhetorical skills that will make your speeches and your writing more effective, which will help you to connect with your audience on an even deeper level.
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!